BlackBerry acquisition could be done at a lower price, suggest analysts

TORONTO – Analysts predict that Fairfax Financial will follow through on plans to buy BlackBerry (TSX:BB) but could pay substantially less than originally announced, as the smartphone maker’s market value erodes.

Fairfax announced Sept. 23 that it was leading a group that would offer US$9 per share, subject to a number of conditions.

But CanaccordGenuity analyst Michael Walkley says a $7-per-share bid is likely to materialize once Fairfax and its partners complete further due diligence over the next month.

Based on CanaccordGenuity’s assessment, BlackBerry would be worth about about $1 billion less than Fairfax’s initial proposal, which valued the company at US$4.7 billion.

Walkley said he has reassessed the company’s assets to take into account BlackBerry’s flagging hardware operations, which were the main reason for a US$965 million loss in the company’s second quarter.

“Given our belief BlackBerry’s hardware business will struggle to return to profitability despite significant cost cuts and a refocus on more high-tier enterprise segments, we struggle to assign any value to the hardware business,” Walkley wrote.

“Our sum of the parts analysis values BlackBerry at roughly $3.75 billion.”

BlackBerry shares have fallen well below the proposed bid value since Fairfax announced the offer a week ago. On Monday afternoon, the stock was down 10 cents to C$8.18 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Investors have been skeptical that Fairfax will successfully complete the acquisition of BlackBerry because its quickly eroding marketshare and high operational costs create the kind of uncertainties that make investors and lenders nervous.

Fairfax head Prem Watsa made an attempt to calm those concerns with a limited number of media interviews last week where he reassured the market that a deal will be done. The comments didn’t seem to make a difference because BlackBerry’s stock price has continued to fall.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek suggests Fairfax could also be forced to lower its offer for BlackBerry if it’s unable to secure the bridge loan required to move forward with the offer.

“The bid could be lowered to (approximately) $7 as a last resort,” Misek said.

“We think other bidders will be unlikely.”

The Fairfax offer is highly conditional and allows the firm some wiggle room to revise its price before making an official offer later this year. Under the details of the tentative bid, Fairfax will not receive a break fee if it lowers the offer below US$9 per share without the approval of BlackBerry’s board of directors.

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